Imagining the Indian The Fight Against Native American Mascoting

Imagining the Indian: The Fight Against Native American Mascoting

Award-Winning Documentary About The Demeaning
Exploitation of Native American Names, Logos, and Mascots in the World of Sports and Beyond

Washington, D.C. (Friday, February 3, 2023) — The latest trailer for the award-winning documentary feature film Imagining the Indian: The Fight Against Native American Mascoting was released today, just days before the Kansas City football team and its fans descend on the Phoenix, Arizona area for Super Bowl LVII week.

Imagining the Indian is a comprehensive examination of the movement to eradicate the words, images, and gestures that many Native Americans and their allies find demeaning and offensive.  While the filmmakers are encouraged by the changes made by Washington’s NFL team to the Commanders, and Cleveland’s MLB team to the Guardians, they realize that the fight against Native American mascoting is far from over.  
Ownership for Kansas City’s NFL team, Chicago’s NHL team, and Atlanta’s MLB team remain adamant that they will not change their team names or practices, including the insidious Tomahawk/Arrowhead Chop.  Additionally, close to 2,000 secondary schools throughout the country still have harmful Native themed mascots.  Imagining the Indian seeks to shine a light on these harms.

For more information on Imagining the Indian: The Fight Against Native American Mascoting, visit  Theatrical dates and locations will be updated weekly on the website.

“Changing the names for the Washington Football team and Cleveland’s baseball team was long overdue, but the victory is only piecemeal until names are also changed in Atlanta for baseball, in Chicago for hockey, and in Kansas City, and don’t ignore the almost 2000 other teams with problematic names,” said Co-Director Aviva Kempner.

“Imagining the Indian is a film that addresses the misrepresentation of Native peoples in sports, television, movies, pop-culture and beyond. We are proud that this film is a product of Indian Country, and that its goals are for the good of all people,” said Co-Director Ben West (Cheyenne).

“Eradicating mascoting of native people will rid us of its perniciousness, which is that exposure to it is at the root of negative stereotyping and treatment of all people of color,” said Co-Producer Kevin Blackistone, an ESPN panelist and professor of the practice at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, who writes sports commentary for The Washington Post.

“Our group, Not in Our Honor, will continue our protests of the use of the chop and our efforts to stop cultural appropriation of our Native people by the Kansas City football team.  The continued mockery and racism of Native nations will be seen by the entire world unfortunately,” said Not in Our Honor member and Imagining the Indian interviewee, Rhonda LeValdo.


The film is made possible by generous support from Executive Producers Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, and Co-Executive Producers Jessica and Steve Sarowitz.

Imagining the Indian is Produced by the Ciesla Foundation, Co-Directed and Co-Produced by Aviva Kempner and Ben West (Cheyenne), and Co-Produced by Kevin Blackistone, Yancey Burns, and Sam Bardley.  Interviewees include activist Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee), Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo), Olympic gold-medalist Billy Mills (Oglala Lakota), Founding Director of the National Museum of the American Indian W. Richard West Jr. (Southern Cheyenne), USA Today columnist Christine Brennan, Under Secretary for Museums and Culture at the Smithsonian, Kevin Gover (Pawnee), Joy Harjo, the 23rd Poet Laureate of the U.S. (Mvskoke), historian Phil Deloria (Dakota), Washington Commanders defensive legend Charles Mann, Congressman Jamie Raskin, broadcaster Bob CostasThe Star-Ledger sports columnist Jerry Izenberg, and NAACP President Derrick Johnson, among many others.

Based in Washington, D.C., Kempner, a director-writer-producer dynamo, boasts a resume of critically acclaimed and award-winning documentaries, including RosenwaldYoo-Hoo, Mrs. GoldbergThe Spy Behind Home Plate, and Peabody winner The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg.  Her films have received top honors from The National Society of Film Critics, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Broadcast Film Critics Association and CINE Golden Eagle and Peabody Awards.  Kempner is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and is an avid voting rights advocate for the District of Columbia. Kemper also co-wrote and is co-producing, with Ben West, a dramatic script about Navajo activist Larry Casuse.

March 31, 2023
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Exclusively in movie theaters beginning on March 31